Reading transports us. Hemingway, Tolkien, Achebe, Bukowski, Neruda, Hafiz, and Rumi all wrote at different times, in different places. And yet, their words travelled long distances to reach the hearts of eager readers. Readers, worlds apart, at one point in time, share something in common with one another upon having read the same words. What is even more fascinating is that despite sharing knowledge of the same words, readers are free to imagine drastically different realms.
The stories that we inherit stay with us, long after their tellers depart from this world. For the longest time, elders preserved the past through oral traditions; they would reminisce about the endeavors of their youth and narrate their accounts of the political tides of their times. Often, this would happen over tea.
But oral tradition lacks the undeniable consistency of the written word. Memories and stories told by word of mouth cannot preserve experiences accumulated in our past, as perfectly as writing it down can. Reading words once they have been penned guarantees that the story will be the same every time it is read.
This is how reading became significant to me as a child. It led to a friendship between me and Alice, from Alice in Wonderland, as well as friendships with the many children in the stories in Taaleem-o-Tarbiyat.
As an adult now, I realize that reading can transport us not only from one place to another but also from one time period to another. Moments in which I yearn for my childhood, and all the friends I made, all I have to do is reach out and open the book that will take me to the time I miss most.
Reading can serve more purposes than just storytelling. It bridges the gap between our willingness to discover the world and our ignorance. Reading teaches entire new ways of being because the addition of even the smallest piece of information in our consciousness transforms us. Reading serves the purpose of teaching when we want to learn new skills or subjects. But reading can also serve the purpose of comforting us when we resort to a book, hoping somewhere, someone knows the words to put our hearts at ease.
Reading shapes us, the same way that the company we keep does. It impacts our thinking patterns. And our mind acts as our most personal library; a collection of all the things we read, that make us who we are. Reading critically is just as important as building strong moral fiber, as it speaks not only to our personality but also to our character.
Reading encourages self-reflection, and self-reflection is conducive to creativity, as well as integrity. Imaginative minds carry a power to create an impact. Growing up with books connected past generations to the present one. Perhaps, it is time to work on instilling a renewed love for bookshelves, yellowed pages, and blotted blue ink, so that we may learn all of the adventures we never got to hear about over tea.
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